Caramelized Salmon

labeled salmon

I haven’t always been a fish fan. As a matter of fact for the longest time the only fish I liked was smoked salmon… as long as it was served on a bagel smothered in cream cheese.  But then some time around high school, I started to develop a palate for fish. (It might have been the frequent visits to the local sushi bar with my parents.) Sure, there are still certain types I don’t like, but there are several I adore, my favorite of which is salmon.

I love salmon seared, grilled, smoked or even raw. But I’m always willing to try new things and when I saw these caramelized salmon chunks on a bed of shredded carrots, I was intrigued. I’d never had sweet salmon before. If you’re worried that caramel means candy-like, let me reassure you. The lime juice and fish sauce tone down the sweetness, making a delicious sauce that fits perfectly with the salmon.

close up

This recipe is so quick and easy, it’s ideal for any week night dinner when you only have a few minutes to throw something together. But placing the salmon on a shredded carrot salad means this dish is fancy enough to serve guests spring, summer, winter or fall. No matter what time of year you choose to whip it up, this salmon is a bright, light, healthy dinner that won’t disappoint.

close up 2

Caramelized Salmon (adapted from Fine Cooking)


  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 carrots, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 pounds salmon filet, pin bones removed and chopped into 1-inch cubes.


  1. Heat the sugar in a small skillet over medium heat until amber in color, about 3 minutes. Make sure you watch the sugar as you don’t want it to burn. Remove from the heat and slowly add 1/4 cup of water.
  2. Place the skillet back over medium heat and cook for another 2 minutes stirring occasionally. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of lime juice and the fish sauce and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Combine the carrots and cilantro in a medium bowl. Toss with the remaining lime juice and a pinch or two of salt. Set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a large wok over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Pour in the caramel sauce and a teaspoon of pepper and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the salmon to the sauce and toss to coat. Arrange the fish in a single layer and continue to simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  6. Place a couple spoonfuls of the carrot mixture onto plates. Top with the salmon and serve.